|Portrayed by||Hannah Waterman|
|First appearance||Episode 1909
17 February 2000
|Last appearance||Episode 2720
30 April 2004
|Introduced by||John Yorke|
Chip shop assistant
Laura Ellen Beale (also Dunn) is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Hannah Waterman. It was announced Waterman would be joining EastEnders as Laura Dunn, a nanny hired by Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) to care for his children. This is Waterman's second role in the soap, having appeared in 1997 as an HIV patient. On 25 February 2004, the Daily Mirror announced Waterman was to leave EastEnders and her character killed off during a fight with Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks). Laura's departure was listed as one of EastEnders' best exits by Virgin Media.
Laura is employed by local businessman Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) as a nanny for his children, Peter (Joseph Shade), Lucy (Casey Anne Rothery) and Steven Beale (Edward Savage). She becomes attracted to Ian but her attempts to get closer to him are unnoticed. Laura is protective of Ian and eventually Ian starts to see her as loyal and faithful but uses her for sex. Eventually, Laura demands more commitment but he refuses so Laura calls off their arrangement and kisses Garry Hobbs (Ricky Groves). Ian is furious when he finds out, leading to Laura's resignation but before she leaves, Ian is declared bankrupt so Laura agrees to stay and help him look after the children and they become a couple. Laura tries to raise money to buy the fish and chip shop so they can run it together, secretly borrowing money from his former wife, Melanie Owen (Tamzin Outhwaite). Ian proposed marriage to Laura but her wealthy father is opposed to their relationship because of Ian's bankruptcy. They get married but Laura discovers that Ian knows about an inheritance she received and wonders if Ian only wants her money, though Ian convinces her this is not true.
Laura is jealous when Ian goes into business with Melanie. She catches them kissing and moves out, but Ian wins her round again. When Melanie is arrested for money laundering and drug dealing (she was set up by her husband, Steve Owen (Martin Kemp) ), she signs her business over to Laura, worried about them being seized by the authorities but Laura refuses to give them back. Melanie is arrested, and when released on bail, informs Ian of Laura's spiteful deed, and tells Laura that she was Ian's first choice. Laura takes delight in belittling Ian and decides she wants a baby. Ian refuses and Laura is heartbroken when she discovers Ian has been paying Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) to sleep with him. Janine goes to Laura's house because she felt guilty, leading them to argue and this ends when Laura throws a pan of boiling milk at Janine, putting her in hospital and causing a feud between Laura and Janine. Laura reconciles with Ian on the promise that they will have a baby but he has a secret vasectomy. Laura gets pregnant and, believing that he cannot be the father, Ian cons her into sign her share of the businesses over to him and throws her out. Laura tells Garry he is the father, following a drunken night together. Garry's wife Lynne Hobbs (Elaine Lordan) throws him out so they move in to a bedsit together. Laura gives birth to Bobby Beale (Kevin Curran), but he needs a blood transfusion and Laura learns that Garry is not Bobby's father but, given Ian's lack of interest and wanting her son to have a father, Laura doesn't tell Garry. Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) appoints Laura as the manager of the café that Ian used to own and she names it Laura's. However, Phil's sister, Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), sells the café to Ian and he sacks Laura.
Laura's feud with Janine continues. Janine stops Laura getting a job by badmouthing her and Laura ruins Janine's business venture. Janine and Laura argue again and end up fighting and Laura is nearly strangled. Laura decides to tell Ian he is Bobby's father but he shuns her. She writes him a letter but moments later, Ian visits her flat as he feels guilty. In her haste to answer the door, she runs down the stairs and trips on a toy, breaking her neck as she falls. She is found dead by Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement). Janine is charged with murdering Laura but is cleared when Pat is eventually persuaded to give Janine an alibi. She also finds Laura's letter to Ian and blood tests confirm Ian is Bobby's father. He feels guilty for the way he treated Laura and takes custody of Bobby.
On 6 January 2000, a writer for the Coventry Telegraph announced Waterman would be joining EastEnders as Laura Dunn, a nanny hired by Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) to care for his children. The writer also reported "romance could be on the cards" for Laura and Ian. Waterman previously appeared in EastEnders in 1997 as an HIV patient. Shortly after she joined the show, Waterman began to be recognised by members of the public and she commented "It can be quite intimidating when people stare at me in the street, so I've resorted to doing what I never dreamed of before - wearing a baseball cap to go shopping. It's interesting being on the show, especially with dad being a Cockney. And I'd love to work with him one day. So far, I've avoided it in case I was accused of using his name to get on, but now we joke about working together on EastEnders. I can just picture him behind the bar at the Queen Vic!"
On 25 February 2004, Nicola Methven of the Daily Mirror announced Waterman was to leave EastEnders and her character killed off during a fight with Janine Butcher. An EastEnders insider said "The police are convinced they are dealing with a murder after they find Laura has Janine's skin under her fingernails. She's relying on Pat to help but she's got no chance. Pat is determined to stitch Janine up as punishment for the murder she really did commit." A spokeswoman for the show said Laura's exit would spark "a succession of devastating events throughout Walford." Waterman revealed she was glad Laura was going to be killed off and that she has to move on from EastEnders. She explained "These are my last scenes, but they're so dramatic. Though I've had a fabulous time, I've got to move on." Waterman also stated that she could not wait for Laura to be killed off. She expressed that she wanted to do other work, particularly with her father, Dennis Waterman, saying "I've never worked with him before. And he's not unhappy I'm leaving. EastEnders has been a fantastic learning curve but I can't play that character any more."
In an interview the Daily Record Waterman said there were perks to playing a couple at war in soapland." She commented: "After a day of nagging Adam and moaning about just about everything, I feel fantastic by the time I get home," she laughs. "If Laura's having a bad day that usually means I finish off the day in a great mood. It's a very cathartic experience being a misery-guts for a living." She continues: "I don't know if she'll forgive him but I doubt she'll throw Ian out. Laura has shifted from being this naive and soft person into a much harder and more manipulative character. That's what happens when you live with Ian Beale for too long." Talking about how Laura manipulated Ian, Waterman commented: "I wouldn't be surprised if she uses Ian's guilt to get her way," she says. "She desperately wants a baby. Now she may be in a position to demand she gets her way. Laura's love for Ian has been tested lately. Her love for him is far less than her desire to have a baby and that's going to be a problem for Ian."
Laura's departure was listed as one of EastEnders' best exits by Virgin Media. An editor of the Daily Mirror called Laura Beale a "loser." Another Daily Mirror editor called her "dreary;" even her own portrayer, Hannah Waterman, said, "EastEnders has been a fantastic learning curve but I can't play that character any more." Julie MacCaskill of the Daily Record said that Ian and Laura are the "most miserable married couple in Albert Square".
- "Hannah to spark up EastEnders". Coventry Telegraph. Trinity Mirror. 6 January 2000. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Morgan, Sally (1 July 2000). "EastEnders star Hannah Waterman reveals how her great love for her parents survived their traumatic divorce". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- Methven, Nicola. "Freakender". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- Methven, Nicola. "Laura's death stair". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "The Ender soap Laura". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- MacCaskill, Julie. "Meet the miseries". The Free Library. Daily Record. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "EastEnders' Best Exits". London: Virgin Media. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
- Methven, Nicola (30 April 2004). "Laura's death stair; Enders Plunge Spells Doom for Killer Janine". Daily Mirror. London. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "Han wants Laura to die.". Daily Mirror. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 13 January 2012.